The store, which opened in mid-2010, is similar to Apple's landmark Fifth Avenue store in New York City, in that the entrance to the underground location is marked by a glass structure on the surface. But unlike the iconic cube found in New York, Apple's shanghai store features a glass cylinder that is 12 meters tall.
The design of the structure is detailed in a newly published patent application discovered by AppleInsider, entitled "Glass Building Panel and Building Made Therefrom." The filing describes a number of curved glass panels arranged to form the cylindrical shape found with the final product.
"Each glass piece is substantially rectangular and includes two opposing long sides extending in a height direction and two opposing short sides extending substantially in a width direction," the filing reads. It continues: "Each glass piece forms an identical circular arc when viewed from either of the two opposing short sides."
The application notes that glass structures are often made of laminate that includes layers of glass and bonding materials, allowing them to meet structural requirements and support loads and forces of expected magnitudes.
"For long spans of single, or monolithic glass panels, however, the conventional laminate structure may deflect for lack of sufficient support, and may be unsuited to withstand some loads or forces of great magnitude," Apple noted.
These issues in building glass structures have prevented the creation of large buildings made simply of glass panels and supports. In the past, the maximum size of glass panels that could be used was limited.
Apple's filing notes that these issues are "particularly problematic" with respect to curved glass, suggesting the application could also apply to the company's forthcoming new corporate headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs highlighted curved glass as one of the defining characteristics of the so-called "spaceship" campus when he unveiled the project to the Cupertino City Council last year.
"It's a circle, and so it's curved all the way around," Jobs said. "There's not a straight piece of glass in this building. We've used our experience in building retail buildings all over the world. We know how to make the biggest pieces of glass for architectural use."
Cited in the latest patent application for the Shanghai store is a patent awarded to Apple, and partially credited to Jobs, in 2007 related to laminated glass structures.
The latest application was first filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in May of 2011. It is created to David Andreini, Karl Backus, Jon F. Cooksey, Tim Eliassen, Scott David Hazard, Holger Krueger, Peter Lenk, James O'Callaghan, and Yutang Zhang.
Apple also used its expertise in using massive single panes of glass to redesign and simplify the Fifth Avenue cube last year. The $6.7 million project replaced 90 smaller pieces of glass with just 15 larger, seamless glass pieces.